Full Speed Ahead with a 3D Printed Spring Motor Paddle Boat

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20150710_013943_preview_featuredOnly a few who enter the Thingiverse come out alive…without the will to modify or use something they’ve seen. It leaves you with a drive for tinkering that some might call infectious. If you fail to heed these warnings and enter, at your own risk, you might encounter something such as the 3D printed Paddle Boat developed by Thingiverse contributor Fulvio (aka FULspeed) who described his symptoms to us:

“I’m a middle-aged, Italian man with a passion for the manual hobbies, so when almost two years ago, I saw a personal 3D printer for the first time, I decided to buy one immediately; the freedom that this new technology would give to my ideas was irresistible! And I can confirm that since then, this 3D world has become a daily rendezvous, I spend at least one to four hours a day in this domain (reading on the internet, discovering new projects, drawing new pieces, printing them, etc.)”

photo_preview_featuredFulvio was first inspired by another Thingiverse contributor, Gzumwalt, who published a design for a spring powered vehicle that could pull a wheelie. As is common in the open source community, Fulvio wasn’t sure how this new inspiration could be useful, just that it needed to be used, but he is quick to acknowledge the debt owed to others and to demonstrate excitement with the latest addition:

“The idea came directly from the spring engine realized by Gzumwalt, I found this thing really extraordinary: a source of energy made entirely of plastic! The next task was just to find out where to use it!”

Boat_assembled_preview_featuredMoving from inspiration to creation required a great deal of trial and error, and a lot of work with SketchUp. Some modifications to the original spring motor design were required, of course, the primary ones being revisions to ensure that the motor would not be so heavy as to sink the boat. Given the lower resistance of boats in water (in relation to tires on the road), the engine didn’t need to be as powerful in order to get a good head of steam and so the reduction in weight came primarily through decreasing the size of the motor’s spring.

“The main problem was to rework the external support of the spring engine to let it fit in the boat. A first version of the hull was in fact too little to support the global weight and it sunk miserably. In the second version, I simply doubled the width. It works very smoothly, the spring charge is obviously limited, but I think that the actual paddles now have the correct dimension to push the boat at a consistent speed.”

Boat_explosed_preview_featuredThe entire boat is composed of 3D printed parts. The hull was printed in ABS plastic while the engine was printed in PLA as it is more rigid, particularly important for the spring mechanism. All tests have been performed in Fulvio’s bathtub to date, with a top speed of 4 seconds to cross the 1.5 meter distance. He has hopes to test the little paddler in a pond of some sort, but bemoans the difficulty of finding such a spot in the center of Paris where he lives. I would suggest he skip over to the fountain in front of the Louvre and give it a shot, I’ve seen a man who sails miniature boats there and it seems like an ideal size. Barring that, I guess he could just eat amazing cheese and drink French wine until another member of Thingiverse with better pond access comes along.

In fact, I wonder if this paddle boat might not be an ideal mechanism for delivering a plate of Époisses de Bourgogne to a freelance writer who, unfortunately, lives far away from France, across quite a large body of water. Let us know your thoughts in the 3D Printed Paddle Boat forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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